What is a hip replacement?

Hip replacements are surgeries that replace a hip joint that has been damaged by arthritis, a fracture, or other condition that make common activities such as walking or getting in and out of a chair painful or difficulty. People who do not experience relief with medications or walking supports may be candidates for a hip replacement.

The first hip replacement was performed in 1960. Since then, the surgery has become one of the most successful operations in medicine, enabling many people to resume regular activities.

Through the years, improved surgical techniques and medical technology have made implants more effective. More than 300,000 hip replacement surgeries are performed each year in the United States.

Why is hip replacement needed?

The hip joint is one of the largest in the body and involves a ball-and-socket type joint. The ball is the femoral head, or upper end of the femur (thighbone). The socket is the part of the large pelvis bone called the acetabulum.

The bone surface of the ball and socket are covered with a slick cartilage that cushions the ends of the bones and allows them to move easily. There is also a thin tissue called a synovial membrane surrounding the hip joint that lubricates the cartilage and prevents friction when the hip moves. Ligaments connect the ball to the socket and provide stability to the joint.

Pain and stiffness in the hip joint can occur when the cartridge cushioning the hipbones wears down due to wear-and-tear or inflammation, or if there is an inadequate blood supply to the ball portion of the hip joint, causing it to collapse and deform.

What happens during a hip replacement?

During total hip replacement surgery, the damaged bone and cartilage is removed and replaced with prosthetic components. The femoral head is replaced with a metal stem, and a metal or ceramic ball is placed on the upper part of the stem. The damaged cartilage on the surface of the socket is removed and replaced with a metal socket. Then a plastic, ceramic or metal spacer is inserted between the new ball and the socket to allow for smooth gliding surface.

What are Metal-on-Metal Hip Implants?

Some older artificial hips made within the last decade use a metal cup liner, which was designed to be more durable than cup liners made with other materials.

However, many metal-on-metal hip implants have failed prematurely – often within five years of implantation. The devices have also been shown to release metal ions into the bloodstream, a condition called metallosis, which causes inflammation and bone erosion. Because of these serious health risks, metal-on-metal hip implants are now rarely used.

Physicians advise people who have undergone hip replacement surgery and have, or think they have, a metal-on-metal implant to contact their orthopedic surgeon even if the joint appears to be functioning well to rule out metallosis.

Hip Implant Recovery

Following a hip replacement, patients should experience a reduction in pain felt prior to surgery and an increase in range of motion. Most patients can resume normal activities six to 12 weeks after surgery. Strength will continue to improve over the next six to 12 months.

Hip Implant Risks

Hip implants typically last up to 20 years or longer. Some patients may require a second hip replacement due to wear and tear. In some cases, hip implants can fail prematurely and require revision surgery to remove and replace the device. People who do not experience improvement or who experience new symptoms should consult with their orthopedic surgeon.

Hip Implant Risks associated with hip replacement surgery include:

  • Blood clots in the legs that can break free and travel to the lungs, heart, or in rare cases, the brain. Blood thinners are often prescribed to reduce this risk.
  • Infections at the incision site and deep tissue near the new hip. Most infections can be treated with antibiotics, but more serious ones may require revision surgery.
  • Fracturing of bone, which may require treatment with pins, a metal plate or bone grafts.
  • Dislocating in the hip joint. This most often occurs during the first few months after surgery.
  • Loosening of the implant, which may require surgery.
  • Metallosis (metal-on-metal prostheses)

What is Metallosis?

In December 2017, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) issued a Safety Communication alerting the public about risks with metal-on-metal hip implants. The agency reported cases in which patients with these devices developed an allergic reaction and experienced other medical problems such as:

  • General hypersensitivity reaction (skin rash)
  • Cardiomyopathy (disease of the heart muscle)
  • Neurological changes including sensory changes (auditory or visual impairments)
  • Psychological status change (including depression or cognitive impairment)
  • Renal (kidney) function impairment
  • Thyroid dysfunction (including neck discomfort, fatigue, weight gain, or feeling cold)

Patients with metal-on-metal hip implants who experience hip/groin pain, noise, difficulty walking or a worsening of previous symptoms should see their orthopedic surgeon for further evaluation. Patients who experience new symptoms or medical conditions in their body other than at the hip should report them to their primary physician and remind them at that time that they have also a metal-on-metal hip implant.

Metal Hip Lawyer

Metal-on-metal hip implants are manufactured by various companies including Johnson & Johnson and its subsidiary DePuy Orthopaedics. People who have been injured by these defective devices have filed lawsuits against the manufacturers.

If you or a loved one has been injured by a metal-on-metal hip replacement, you may have a claim against the manufacturers. Please contact us today by filling out the brief questionnaire or by calling our toll-free number (1-800-898-2034) for a free, no-cost, no-obligation evaluation of your case.


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